Marketing & Communications Centre > Marketing Essentials > Help Sheets > Planning Direct Mail - Part 1

Planning Direct Mail – Part 1

When your community organisation has decided on a direct mail campaign the most important element is to minimise the cost and maximise the chances of success.

Whatever the size of your direct mail campaign, proper planning is important in maximising its success.

Your group's direct mail-out doesn't have to be huge.  It can be a mail-out targeting a couple of hundred nearby households, or just to those people whose membership of your group has lapsed in recent years.

Good planning is the solid foundation you build a successful direct mailing effort on. In general, there is not a massive amount of work in properly preparing for a direct mail campaign, but it does require thought, co-ordination and attention to detail.

Here are some steps to help in planning a direct mail campaign.

STEP 1 – Know why you are Direct Mailing.

This might sound obvious but, because there are so many things a community group does and needs, a specific focus should be established for the campaign.

Decide which aspect of your work will you focus the effort on –
  • An appeal for donations?
  • A drive to boost your group's membership?
  • An appeal for goods or other help?
  • A fundraiser through the sale of goods or raffle tickets?
  • An invitation or opportunity to attend a function or fundraising event?
  • An awareness campaign highlighting a specific issue or challenge?
  • A call-to-action to support an action your group is taking?
Knowing this type of information helps your organisation focus and assists in ensuring the direct mailing effort is concentrated, targeted and well defined.

It may also help your organisation decide on the look and content of your letter:
  • Does it need to be in a certain format?
  • Do you need to include other material and if so, what other material? (Refer to Step Three, below.)
  • Does it need to have an RSVP, response deadline, etc?
  • Could you include a survey or information gathering device that can bolster your database?

STEP 2 – Set some objectives

To best target your direct mail you will need to have some aims and objectives for your campaign.

These aims and objectives need to be clearly defined and known by your organisation, especially those involved in the direct mail campaign – BEFORE the campaign starts.

One way of establishing some objectives is to remember the acronym SMART – which stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timed.

For example:
  • What do you want your direct marketing activity to achieve and who do you want to target? (Specific)
  • How will you know you've achieved it? For example, will you measure it by an increase in membership, a target amount of money raised or donations gained? Or the total number of first-time donors? (Measurable)
  • How will you put in place your objectives? (Actionable)
  • Are your objectives realistic and can they be achieved? (Realistic)
  • What is your timeframe, or how long has your group got to achieve its objectives? (Timed)
When looking at objectives remember these points:
  • Ensure your objectives are targeted, results-oriented and achievable, with a definite start and finish date.
  • Establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) against each objective (or each step towards your single objective) to be measured.
  • For example – if you are on a fundraising drive, have monetary targets where your group can buy a certain product or equipment each time a target is achieved or exceeded. These sorts of targets ("$100 will help buy 10 pairs of shoes for underprivileged children") are often used in a letter of approach as a visual tool to encourage donors.
  • Allocate adequate resources.

STEP 3 – What else do we need to include in our Direct Mail Campaign?

The next question your group needs to ask is "What other material or details do we need to make our direct mail campaign as effective as possible?"

Addressing this question will help your organisation specifically concentrate what other information or material you need to include in your direct mail-out. Depending on the objective of your campaign you may need any or all of the following material:

Background information
  • This can include everything from news clippings, testimonials, project or group information, or references to your website and other contact details.
    • For more information on background information that can be included in your direct mail campaign, refer to this help sheet.(Link here to separate help sheet)
Accompanying material
  • This includes any information or material that is essential to achieving campaign objectives for your organisation.
    • It can be as simple as ensuring you have printed up enough books of raffle tickets and having them ready to go out with your direct mail.
    • Similarly, invitations to a fundraising function or event, or membership forms for people to join your group, need to be included.
Information gathering tools
  • This could be a survey, questionnaire or other such device to gain information from those you have direct mailed.

These extra inclusions need to be prepared in advance, approved and be ready to be easily included in your direct mail-out.

STEP 4 – Decide on the wording of the Direct Mail letter

The wording of your direct mail letter is all important – it can make or break your campaign.

A more detailed look at the wording of your letter is featured in the help sheet Creating an Effective Direct Mail Letter, which is coming soon to the site.

Briefly, some key points towards a successful letter can be remembered by using the AIDA structure:
  • Attention – attract the reader's attention through a distinctive or attention-grabbing letter that is clear, well set-out and gets its message across quickly. Research shows recipients will not read the entire letter, so grab their attention and get your message across early. Personalising the letter is another way to grab readers' attention.
  • Interest – Once you've caught the reader's attention, keep their interest by explaining your message further.
  • Desire – Focus on the benefits they will receive if they respond – it could be a raffle prize, membership to a great organisation (yours!) or a good feeling from having helped a great cause or appeal.
  • Action – Importantly, tell them how they can help. Spell it out clearly and simply so they can understand.

STEP 5 – Make sure you can cater for any response

Amongst all the planning for the direct mail-out campaign itself, it can be easy to overlook the need to cater for any response to the campaign.

If, for example, your group is using a campaign to increase membership, you will need to ensure you are ready to receive and process the membership application forms you included in your mail-out.

Or if you have sent out raffle tickets as part of a fundraiser, make sure you are ready to receive returned tickets, process and bank money raised, etc.

You worked hard to get those responses, to sell those raffle tickets or to grab those new members, so it's important you make a strong and positive impression in the follow through. Not being able to do so efficiently will negate the gains you've achieved.


Following these steps will help have you ready to begin your direct mail out. Part 2 of this help sheet explains more about targeting your direct mail-out message.

The information contained on this site is subject to change. Our Community will not be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever coming from reliance placed on all or part of its contents.